We reviewed the performance of the Core 100 HT-BD from the standpoint of a HTPC, and it has come out pretty well in almost all perspectives. It does have some shortcomings, particularly for the dedicated enthusiasts who are concerned about the support for 23.976 fps, and those who clamour for complete open source software support. However, these are not really ASRock's faults, but more of Intel's.

Since the introduction of the Clarkdale / Arrandale platforms, HTPCs based on them have been solely built by enthusiasts.  Their requests to Intel to fix issues have usually fallen on deaf ears. If their customers like ASRock are able to build up a good market share and bring HTPCs into the mainstream market, it is quite possible that the frequency of Intel's driver updates would go up and issues would get fixed faster.

Let us wrap up this review with the pros and cons of the Core 100 HT-BD:

Pros

1. Quantum leap in performance and lowered power consumption (maximum of 48W) over similar form factor nettops from last year (Atom / ION)
2. USB 3.0 ports in front get maximum performance out of external hard disks
3. Perfect Blu-Ray playback with bitstreaming and GPU decode acceleration using PowerDVD / ArcSoft TMT / Corel WinDVD
4. Customers without fancy A/V receivers still get the advantage of the THX Studio Pro certification in the VIA VT2020 codec, supposedly better on specifications compared to the Realtek ALC892 (higher SNR ratio)
5. Powerful and stable 300 Mbps Wireless-N networking capable of streaming high bitrate videos.
6. Fancy AiWi gaming feature enables usage of external devices with accelerometers as motion controllers
7. Bundled MCE remote can control almost all media playback programs
8. Easy overclocking from within Windows
9. Ability to install two 2.5" HDDs / SSDs in addition to the optical disk drive.
10. Perfect wake-up from sleep / shutdown using the MCE remote (No different from using a dedicated media streamer like the WDTV Live)

Cons

1. HM55 chipset limitations doesn't allow for full performance from USB 3.0 ports when using external SSDs
2. Needs some overclocking / disabling of C-States and SpeedStep in the BIOS to handle DPC latency issues and some complicated video encodes
3. Noise levels go up from the 25dB at idle to 55dB when the system is under full load.
4. No PCI-E expansion slots inside, ruling out the possibility of an internal TV tuner
5. Monitor resolutions higher than 1920x1080 aren't supported
6. Intel's drivers aren't up to the mark (Absence of 23.976fps support, absence of support for good deinterlacing and noise reduction, no ability to perform skin tone correction)
7. Absence of a unified interface to handle all types of media because of limited support for open source software developers (MPC-HC / VLC) from Intel

ASRock continues to make rapid strides in the HTPC arena with their second generation product, and we really like the fact that they seem to be learning from the shortcomings of their previous generation products based on the ION platform. Despite the cons of the Core 100 HT-BD (the ones which really matter are Intel's and not ASRock's), we have no qualms in recommending this HTPC to anyone planning to invest in a Clarkdale or Arrandale for their home theater. Kudos to ASRock for taking the lead in bringing the first pre-built HTPC based on this platform into the market. We also commend them for putting in a nice balance of features and providing a decent value for the money. This is a sign of good things to come for the company as well as the pre-built HTPC market.

HTPC Performance : Noise, Power Consumption & Miscellaneous Concerns
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  • tmservo - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    This is a good point regarding tuners. I also wish there was an internal. But I can deal without. Right now, I have 4 tuners: a SiliconDust dual tuner QAM (connects over ethernet) a 2250 and a ATI650. But I almost never watch that many programs at once, and with the cable companies limiting, they are on my elimination list. This fall SiliconDust is supposed to have their 3 tuner CableCard solution out. At the moment they have that, my need of any cards in my PC completely go away. Completely goes away. I'll have better TV input.

    Now, I wish there was a single PCI-E x1 slot so I could consider the Ceton, but I could deal.
    Reply
  • jnmfox - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Surprised Silicon Dust's HDHomeRun hasn't been mentioned:
    http://www.silicondust.com/products/hdhomerun/atsc...

    One of the best tuners around and will work on any networked PC. Plus you don't have to add bulk to your HTPC by making it bigger to fit a tuner inside. One of the best HTPC purchases I've made.
    Reply
  • Braumin - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    Everyone needs a different tuner. Including any tuner would just be a waste of money since it would not be guaranteed to work on the owner's system. USB and Network tuners are available and make this a complete DVR. Reply
  • CharonPDX - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    I already use an HD HomeRun as my tuner, so no internal tuner isn't a deal killer at all for me. (And I may get a second HD HomeRun.) Reply
  • jrwalte - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    Did you ever consider using a USB tuner? Reply
  • EnzoFX - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - link

    There are probably more USB based tuners these days than internal tuners being made. Secondly, I strongly recommend the network based HDHomeRun tuner. Lastly, this is probably targeted at people who wouldn't want to install an internal tuner. Reply
  • RamIt - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Give me an expansion slot and I'll buy one. until then no thx. Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    RamIt,

    Most of what can be achieved through an expansion slot is possible using external USB devices. The Core 100 unit is quite liberal in that respect, providing 6 USB 2.0 ports and 2 USB 3.0 ports.

    Also, note that the chipset used is the HM55. Compare this with a similarly spec-ed notebook computer. It is difficult for manufacturers to provide expansion slots, and even if they do, the costs of the devices fitting those slots are much higher than their external USB counterparts.
    Reply
  • Stokestack - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Unfortunately, the only USB 3 ports are on the front. This is a mistake. People setting up a nice home-theater system don't want ugly wires hanging out of their components full-time.

    Receiver makers are making the same baffling mistake with USB ports for iPods. Why on earth would I want this wire dangling off the front of the unit all the time? A port on the back allows you to plug a dock, an external drive, or tuner in and keep it out of sight.
    Reply
  • GeorgeH - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    At $700 this will be competing with the Mac Mini. It has superior hardware specs, but if I were looking for something small, quiet, and attractive to put in my living room the Mini would win easily. This box is just to close to a basic mini-ITX box that any troglodyte could throw together - ASRock really needs to leverage their ability to make completely custom parts before they have a truly compelling product.

    It's cool to see more high-powered boxes in this form factor, I just wish it had been executed better.
    Reply

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